Today a friend of mine said she isn’t sure she believes any people in the U.S. have died from covid because she doesn’t know any of them.
And this statement gave me pause, made me think about all of humanity, how if something doesn’t personally touch us, we aren’t sure it is real.
Rape victims fall into this category. Victims in general fall into this category. If someone stalked one person and didn’t stalk you, does that mean they aren’t a stalker?
Not long ago, I had a boyfriend who I’d tell my stories to, the outrageous stories I’ve written about here over the years, and he’d say, “I never had that experience with that person.” Or he’d say, “I’ve never heard of that happening to anyone else.”
And his doubt showed up in those simple sentences and they were a way of discounting my truth. Inside the truth lives vulnerability, shame and fear. There is nothing more vulnerable than telling our truth.
Then my friend today asked me, “do YOU know anyone who died of Covid?” as if to challenge this simple number of lives lost, growing daily. There are 378,200,000 documented citizens in the United States. 378.2 MILLION people and a small percentage of them died from Covid. Wherever the numbers are today, you can do the math. You’d have to have a pretty wide circle to know someone.
Because of the work I do, I have a pretty wide circle.
I have friends who are in the medical field, friends who are grief counsellors, friends who have lost parents to the disease. One of our writers wrote a detailed report of her husband giving the eulogy at his friend’s funeral who died from Covid and the difficulty of not hugging the grieving wife.
Just the other day a young man who lives on Kauai lost his mother from Covid – she lived on Oahu. And he couldn’t go, because he wouldn’t have been able to see her and she died alone.
And I want you all to know denial is a powerful tool. We can forgive the people who prefer to live inside a bubble of denial, until it touches their lives.
Perhaps this is how they are hanging on and able to survive.
So let’s have compassion for those people, too.
When anyone tells you something happened to them, listening deeply is the best gift you can offer. If you dismiss their story as not being true, you are inflicting harm upon them.
Let’s be kinder, let’s be gentle. Let’s hold space for all the grief swirling around us. The human reaction to this pandemic is not much different than the reaction in 1918, by the way, the last major pandemic. Half the people wouldn’t wear masks, and when World War one ended everyone was so fucking over the quarantine they took to the streets, touching kissing, loving, celebrating.
That’s when the next wave hit hard. That’s when most of the deaths happened.
During that pandemic, people were dead within 24 hours. If you called for help in the middle of the night, they showed up in the morning with a body bag.
And still, people didn’t wear masks.
Still, people didn’t believe.
Denial is a powerful tool. One can live for years in denial. One can also die from denial.
Here’s is what I want to say to you tonight.
People are dying, wear your fucking masks, even if it’s just for solidarity and nothing more. Be careful. And when someone tells you a story of something that happened to them, never say “that never happened to me.”
It dismisses them, it’s taking their story away from them, it makes them feel small, and I will say this again:
LOVE IS NOT SMALL.
It’s BIG. Let’s love each other. There is no other way out of this mess.